Jāņi – the most celebrated traditional festival in Latvia
Unquestionably Jāņi (pronounced [ja: ɲi]) or the Midsummer is the most celebrated festival in Latvia and it overshadows even Christmas. Jāņi is held in the night from 23 June to 24 June to celebrate the summer solstice (Midsummer), the shortest night and longest day of the year.
The festival’s eve Jāņu vakars ([jaːɲu vakars]) is held in the evening of June 23rd and goes on all through the night, where people Līgo (sway) into the following day.
Jānis is also the most popular men’s given name in Latvia and is corresponding to English name John. All men who are called Janis on that day hold a special status and are given oak branch crown to put on. Liga, a very popular women’s name and who has a name’s day on June 24th is also celebrated.
People usually spend Jāņi in the countryside and there is always a bonfire. Because of Latvia’s position far in the north, the night is quite short. According to tradition, you have to stay up all night until the sunrise, which occurs already around 3 in the morning.
In Jāņi we love to sing and dance, as well as jump over the fire. We believe it helps to attract prosperity and fertility. Jāņi also is thought to be the perfect time to gather herbs, because it is believed that they then have magical powers.
Traditional food during Jāņi is a special type of cheese with caraway seeds, and the traditional drink is beer. Many people make the cheese of Jāņi themselves; a few also make their own beer.
Here is a recipe of Latvian traditional Midsummer (Jāņi) caraway cheese :
- Cottage cheese 3 kilograms or 6.6 lb
- Butter 250 grams or ½ lb
- Milk 300 ml or 10 ounces
- 3 eggs
- caraway seeds ( few table spoons or according to your preferences)
Put cottage cheese in the blender, add milk, eggs, salt, and caraway seeds and mix well.
Melt butter in a big casserole and add the mixture. Continue heating and stirring until the mixture transforms to shiny and homogeneous mass.
Grease big bowl with butter. Put the cheese into the bowl and keep refrigerated until the cheese hardens.
Preparation time: 60 minutes